International Women’s Day: From 16 days to 365 days of Action

Date: January 1, 1970
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Johannesburg 8 March: Gender Links welcomes the launch of a 365 day National Action Plan to End Gender Violence by the Deputy President Phumzile Mlambo Ncquka and the national convener of 16 days of Activism, Deputy Minister Nomatyala Hangana at Union Buildings on International Women’s Day.

The plan follows a watershed conference in May 2006 to develop a comprehensive multi sector plan that ensures that the Sixteen Days of Activism from 25 November to 10 December is sustained all year around.

South Africa is one of the first countries to “stretch the 16 days to 365” as well as heed the call by the UN Secretary General in a global report last year for all countries to develop national action plans for ending gender violence. The UN theme for this year’s International Women’s Day is “Ending Impunity for Violence against Women and Girls.”

In a message to mark International Women’s Day on 8 March United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon said that: “All too often, perpetrators of violence against women and girls go unpunished. Despite growing awareness of the magnitude of the problem, its dimensions, forms, consequences and costs – to both the individual and society at large – the political will to end the culture of impunity and to effectively prevent and address violence against women and girls has not yet materialised.”

By launching a comprehensive plan that covers prevention, response and support (see highlights in accompanying document) the South African government, business and civil society partners are nailing their colours to the mast. But the real test will come in the implementation. Key concerns include:

  • While statistics on other forms of crime show a decline, rape shows no sign of abating and the full extent of under reporting is not known.
  • There are no separate statistics on domestic violence, but existing evidence suggests that this too is not abating.  
  • The sexual offences bill, in the pipeline since 1996, has still not been passed.
  • One stop centres for providing comprehensive treatment and care are few and far between. The majority of victims are not treated with the dignity they deserve.
  • Most survivors of sexual assault are not able to access Post Exposure Prophylaxis within the necessary timeframe to reduce the risk of contracting HIV and AIDS.
  • Conviction rates for perpetrators of gender violence are abysmally low.
  • Most places of safety are run by NGOs with limited state support. Programmes for ensuring the empowerment of women who have experienced abuse are inadequate.
  • Efforts to involve men, rehabilitate perpetrators and change attitudes and mindsets need to be intensified.
  • Coordination between and within stakeholder groups needs to be improved to ensure effective delivery of services.

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